Recently, Elizabeth Warren and a number of other Democratic candidates for president have suggested that the electoral college be abolished. Right now a candidate for president must win a majority of electoral college votes regardless of the outcome of the national popular vote.
President Trump in 2016 and President Bush in 2000, did not win the popular vote, but they did win a majority in the electoral college. The Dems claim that this is not fair and that the president should be elected by popular vote. In fact, a number of states are trying to change their electoral college votes based on the national popular vote rather than the vote within their state.
In theory, a Democracy or a Constitutional Republic make major decisions based on the desires of the majority of the people. Indeed it was rule by a generally elite minority, rather than the majority, that was the basis for the founding of our country. However, our forefathers also recognized that the United States of America, while honoring rule by the majority, also realized that individual states must have basic rights and should have a voice in presidential elections.
Why did our forefathers establish two chambers of Congress?
When Congress was formed there were two bodies created: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Realizing it would be impossible to have a direct Democracy where each citizen voted on each issue, a representative Democracy was established. In theory, voters elect representatives who will vote in Congress on issues in a manner that reflects the views of their constituents.
The House of Representatives was set up to reflect the majority of the population so that heavily populated states like California have 53 votes while lightly populated states like Wyoming have only 1. The total of 435 seats is re-allocated after each census to reflect the current population. While this configuration ensures that votes passed in the House reflect the majority of the national population, it does ignore what the majority of states may want.
The Senate reflects states rights.
The Senate was established to correct this. Each state, regardless of population, has two votes in the Senate. This means that Wyoming with just over half a million people has the same voice as California with nearly 40 million people. This ensures that a majority of states must approve of a law before it is passed.
While this protects states’ rights, it is possible that 82 Senators from 41 states vote to approve a law with those Senators representing less than 50% of the population, even though that total represents a large majority of states.
That’s because the population of the nine largest states (18 Senators) is about 51% of the total US population. If the 18 Senators from those nine states are the only ones to vote no on a bill, the bill passes with less than 50% of the population’s support.
The electoral college recognizes both needs.
The electoral college was established to try to balance the popular vote with the need for states rights. There are 538 electors in the electoral college. Each state is given one elector for each member of the House of Representatives (435 in total) plus one additional elector for each of the two Senators (100 in total). The District of Columbia gets three electors.
If the electoral college was abolished and the president elected simply by a majority in the national vote, the majority of people from smaller, less populated states could lose their voice in presidential elections. A number of states have already considered having their electors vote for the candidate who gets the majority of the national vote. This would mean candidates would campaign mostly in densely populated states while ignoring the less populated states.
The electoral college process has worked very well for the US. With a few exceptions, the electoral college vote reflected the will of the majority of American voters. For the few exceptions, the results reflected our constitution’s desire to give all states a voice in the electoral process.
Our legislative system with two chambers of Congress to determine national laws and with the electoral college to determine the president of the United States has worked well in the past. This system reflects the will of the majority of the people while allowing all states to have a voice in the presidential election. There is no reason to change.
Michael Busler, Ph.D. is a public policy analyst and a Professor of Finance at Stockton University where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Finance and Economics. He has written Op-ed columns in major newspapers for more than 35 years. @mbusler www.facebook.com/fundingdemocracy